METHODOLOGICAL, TECHNICAL AND ETHICAL ISSUES OF QUALITY ASSESSMENT IN HIGHER EDUCATION: THE CASE OF ROMANIA

P. Lisievici

Spiru Haret University (ROMANIA)
The system of quality assessment in higher education has been developed in Romania as a result of widespread criticism on the higher education institutions not being “competitive” on the European and global education markets.
It does however seem to have had little (if any) success in promoting better quality.
This paper analyses the underlying assumptions and constructs on which the system was built on, (defining quality, uniformity versus diversity, centralization versus decentralization, rigidity versus flexibility, freedom versus constraint, control versus support, measurement versus assessment), as well as the cultural, moral and psychological issues associated with quality assurance.
The paper finds that a list of critical questions have to receive satisfactory answers before any quality assurance system be put in place:
Is it advisable to develop a quality assurance system in the absence of an explicit, consistent and satisfying definition of quality of education?
Can quality in education be actually measured?
Can quantitative indicators be effective in assessing quality?
Is it advisable to use a top down, comprehensive and high rate implementation scheme of a quality assurance system instead of a bottom up and gradual implementation scheme?
Is it advisable to set up a quality assurance system disregarding the input from the most important funding entity (at least in Romania), the student?
Is it advisable to entirely allocate responsibility for the quality to the universities?
Is it advisable to only use control and institutional sanctions as leverage for stepping up quality?
The paper finds that in the absence of satisfying answers to such questions, a quality assurance system may well end up by delivering results completely opposite to the ones expected.